Knight Ridder's Tom Lasseter Has an Appointment in Samarra
Greg Mitchell writes:
Why Tom Lasseter Stays Behind in Iraq: Two weeks ago, I wrote a column alerting readers to a report by Knight Ridder's longtime Baghdad correspondent Tom Lasseter. He had returned from an embed mission to little-visited Samarra and, in his usual way, offered a remarkably frank look at a city that was taken by the U.S. last year but never really pacified. Well, timing is everything. A few days later, insurgents blew the top off the main mosque there and a near-civil war has raged since, with hundreds killed.
Lasseter's mid-Februrary dispatch proved prescient, but what surprised me most of all was that he was still out there risking his life. When last we heard from him last autumn, he was planning to wind up his long, award-winning stint in Iraq in January 2006, and move to Washington, D.C., to work for the KR bureau there. So what was he doing in mid-February, still in Iraq, filing another wrenching dispatch, embedded with U.S. troops in Samarra? What's with this guy? And how does he manage to get all of these stories, and revealing quotes, from military personnel when few others can?
E&P has covered Lasseter several times in the past two years. His assignment in Samarra caused me to ask him how it came about. From Baghdad, he replied that he had been curious about Samarra for quite some time. Was it indeed pacified last year, as claimed by the U.S., or more like still-boiling Ramadi? After expressing his interest to the public affairs chief for the 101st Airborne, he got the OK to hitch a ride in a helicopter to the city in January. Lasseter wrote in this e-mail that he was "pretty surprised by the level of destruction in the town." Its population of over 200,000 had been cut in half. Despite being surrounded by a seven-mile-long security wall, it was beset by an increasing number of explosions set off by insurgents...